Other than the ARM, Nvidia, and a few billion in biotech (about $3 billion) investments, so much of the fund has gone into pretty "obvious" traditional startups.
If I had a $100 billion fund, I wouldn't be swinging for these singles and doubles (which Uber and WeWork were by the time Softbank got involved, although these companies can still provide value to customers).
Vision Fund should've been out-competing Google X to become the financial backer of basically the next Bell Labs. Instead of 3% biotech and 20% Uber and WeWork and Wag, I'd have flipped those two numbers.
The biggest loss from the Vision Fund is the opportunity cost of all the great disease-eliminating, fundamental-science research that could've had much greater upside than WeWork. And I never hear that opportunity cost discussed.
EDIT: I've added an additional comment with more supporting arguments for taking bigger risks but more ambitious risks when managing large sums: https://news.ycombinator.com/edit?id=21096651
To be fair, there is something more in the picture. UAE for instance is much more cosmopolitan, but has failed to be a research hub, in contrast to rich city states like Singapore. Iran, their neighbour, produces some very smart people however - who then inevitably move out, considering the flavour regime in that country.
You’re wary of moving to a desert special economic zone if you are unsure or suspicious of it
You’re weary of it if you have moved to many such zones already and you are a bit sick of it
Are these city states research hubs? Hong Kong or Liechtenstein perhaps.
By one order of magnitude these days, the Norwegian fund's market value was less than $100b in 2004 though.
Someone whose core business is losing money is trying to recoup them in an area that they have no clue about.
This is a typical guy who feels pressure so he buys at the top and puts his money based on recommendation of others in a business that is going to be next big thing. A typical sucker in other words who will end up penniless.
They should invest in nanotechnology, and make the world’s smallest violin.
What, oil? Go look up the average barrel cost for Saudi oil (hint: it's less than 2 lattes). Demand needs to drop to essentially zero before renewables are competitive with their oil. They are not losing money.
Well that is how the current VC market works - sadly
Yeah but it's not like the variables at work before are the same at work today. With the current set of variables, even LESS likely than ever than what you call the "current civilization" would collapse completely, because it's massively decentralized in terms of knowledge.
Not precisely an extinction, but still not a lot of hope.
It's like painting a wall mural using fine tipped brushes, rather than wide paint rollers or a paint gun. You get the job done so much faster, but your quality will suffer tremendously.
Come to think of it, it has many similarities to Google X. But that's extremely hard to build.
Such an organization has to be grown slowly. But that takes too much time if you have the opportunity to manage huge amounts of money right away.
"lets do Google X but with $100 billion" is a laughable business model
Dunno. I'm not quite sure of the figures but in 2015 they put in $3.5bn for the year. Against that Waymo which came out of X was recently valued at $105bn (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/27/waymo-valuation-cut-40percen...)
Investing into Uber at $47B isn't vision.
Bezos isn't a VC, he owns the greatest demand engine the world has ever known, and that matters when spending money.
And Gates ? he deals, smartly, with much lower sums. His energy VC is for example, has $1B.
It's not so easy spending $40B-$50B in 3 years, like the vision fund did.
It is if you buy a few healthy companies instead of gambling in the early stage startup market.
What you are describing is more like a pre-seed/seed fund of which there are thousands around including YC. Sure they don't have the capital but that is often not the blocker for most of these companies.
Vision fund is focused on taking successful companies global. And using their capital to knock out competitors and their experience in managing execution risk.
And their "vision" seems to be focused on a world where everything is provided by autonomous and robotic systems. And where Uber, Wag etc are the brands that leverage them.
This strategy will backfire in a fragmented market. I.e. if the competitor hold on.
But their returns from Uber, WeWork, and Wag kind of support my point, whereas ARM and Nvidia support yours/theirs.
My broader point is that most informed technologists would've said three years ago that the ARM and Nvidia investments made more long-term sense than Uber and WeWork, yet Uber and WeWork are a disproportionate amount of the portfolio.
So if the Vision Fund isn't even going to succeed at the "scale big companies globally" approach, I'm not sure they would've done much worse going with the approach I suggested (or doing more deals like ARM and Nvidia, maybe they could've taken a huge activist stake in IBM or other large existing tech cos).
The thesis for Uber (and wework) was simpler - assuming they had sound unit economics, give them $XB to repeat all over the world. In fact if Uber didn’t mistakenly give Lyft a second life, Uber might be in a much better spot.
I think the problem is, companies like Uber, Wework and Wag work really well in wealthy cities like SF and NYC, but not as well in other cities. I live in SF and WeWork “works” there are glut of companies coming in and out of the VC machine that need temporary space that end up needing to also scale up quickly. However that’s unique to SF and SF is such a large market, maybe it looks sound until it doesn’t.
So you should not analyse SoftBank investments in terms of logic but more in terms of underlying self-destructive behavior.
The size was originally used as a brute-force growth tactic and competition clearer, but now it's clear that it's just leading to unviable business models and vastly inflated valuations while hurting more promising companies that have to compete in this bubble environment.
The largest couple hedge funds are in the broad neighborhood of that size, so perhaps not too oversized.
We've only invested $1Bn in fusion (according to this article: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/fission-fusion-capital-flow...). Physicists have been saying "we're close" for like 70 years.
It took the Manhattan project the equivalent of $23Bn. If we had the same type of investment, we could have clean and (almost) free energy forever. Instead we spend like 20% of GDP on energy per year. And destroy our only planet...
It's not like the stakes are high or anything.
I think it's telling that the most optimistic scenario they can come up with is "someday it might be competitive with fossil fuels if you consider the cost of fuel only".
The thing is, if fission is uncompetitive in the long run because of capital costs, can you, with a straight face, claim that fusion will be better, even in 50 years?
Edit: Of course, making fossil fuel more expensive would change the calculus. But my point is, since that is a prerequisite to addressing climate change anyway, we shouldn't be talking about fusion as a particular alternative.
That is, until something can be put into production, it is not a superior product.
This is patently untrue. ITER, the source cited in that article , gives a cost so far of $15 billion and rising just for one facility.
What the article actually says is that $1 billion has been invested by venture capital firms in fusion since 2002. Most of the investment, like in the Manhattan Project, comes instead from government sources.
It's not construction work, you can't just hire more people to speed up research. When you have the top 50 or so scientists in the field, you just need to wait for results.
Agreed on your research point within the context of one approach in one company.
It's the equivalent of the software developers' "I'm 90% done, I just have to.."
It is hard to show "traction" and "exponential growth" with this kind of things.
If you are $10M investment in a fund of $100B you won't be getting much support or mind share from your investor. It's not just VCs shopping for companies to invest in. It's also companies thinking from whom to take the money.
That aside, when you have $100B investing it is actually quite challenging. Take Stripe, for example, a fantastic private company that is valued at over $33B, but it has raised drastically less money than Uber or WeWork.
In order to deploy $100B it isn't enough to make $300MM bets because it would require 333 such investments. Just imagine. You would need 330 companies the size of Stripe and lead a late stage growth round to deploy that amount of capital.
Now Stripe has raised less money because they are more capital efficient and aren't burning cash like Uber or WeWork.
With Uber, at least there was a game plan because it was a tech company. Now it isn't important to debate how much of a "tech" company Uber is, simply think of tech as leverage. Which is the basic idea of tech companies, meaning that you write code once and then you can infinitely replicate at a near zero cost. While building something physical, your cost doesn't decrease towards this zero amount.
People also thought that DST was crazy when they invested at Facebook at a $10B valuation, but that has worked out well for them.
So regardless, Uber was a good investment and worth the risk, and still we have to wait and see where Uber is trading in 2-3 years time.
The real problem for the Vision fund is that to deploy this capital they necessarily need money losing businesses. These companies need funds to grow, so it allows them to absorb more capital which makes deploying $100B a lot easier.
Now Uber has leverage because of it's network. If you open your iPhone and you don't have an Uber waiting for you then you will stop using it. So actually there is real value in the network there.
For WeWork there is no "tech" and there is no leverage. Certainly the tech side is obvious, just look at the employee head count and the leverage side is also non-existent. There being more than 10 WeWorks in the same city for me doesn't actually make my experience of WeWork any better or worse. Which has been proven by how many coworking startups have sprung up to compete with them and are having no issues filling their office space.
So here you have a large money losing business with no leverage and as a result giving it a tech multiple was blindingly obvious to many people that it was a bad idea.
With that the Vision fund is running into real hot water. They need large growing companies in order to deploy their investment capital, but investing in money losing businesses is a risky, especially when the largest money losing businesses don't have real leverage and aren't real tech companies.
This just all unraveled a bit quicker than Softbank would have liked, but it isn't at all surprising.
To see other investments of theirs falter isn't surprising either. Because they will all follow the money losing model in order to absorb the capital, but unless they truly offer leverage then they will be either displaced, or they won't provide enough value to eventually out run their costs.
It's an investment. Their top priority likely isn't eliminating diseases. Nor do most investors think it's wise to compete against Google.
I am also not the only one with this thought; Professor Andrew Lo of MIT has a final chapter in his book "Adaptive Markets" about how he might structure a similar "big problem solving fund" akin to the Vision Fund but with arguably bolder ambitions.
And before someone argues that "they're likelier to lose a lot of money trying riskier investments", they just seemingly lost a lot of money on the "easier" investments. So if you're going to lose money, I'd rather it be on trying to solve hard problems than paying Adam Neumann.
I appreciate your informative comments to HN, but we need you to stop posting like this. It damages the community, which is fragile. Would you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and fix this going forward?
While I have massive respect for the people with the insight, patience, and understanding to tackle biotech, I can't imagine spending 8-10 years for the hope that maybe you've done something useful.. and then figure out if you can sell it.
The entire conversation with said person, was them talking at me for about 30 minutes. They said the company was going to try to pivot to developing some service surrounding their lock box service for the keys to get into people's houses for the dog walking.
It seemed very "directionless" and gave me a very bad taste in my mouth. They never got back to me or anything. Which was fine by me since I wasn't going to pursue them any further.
They had me come in at noon, said they'd serve me lunch, then directed me to a galley kitchen where there were some leftovers from something that was served the day before.
I kind of zoned out after that, cause I was hungry and also annoyed, but I remember being condescended to, everyone being late, and everyone seeming like they were in a huge hurry. Never heard a rejection or offer from them.
My ex has our dog, I told her to stop using Wag as soon as possible. I'm not trusting a company that disorganized with my dog.
Emailing tests or documents is very common during the interview process if the company is a startup. Offer them a github link with the code if you want to standout.
Why apply without knowing the stack?
Last time I looked, none were comparable to Rails/Django/SpringBoot/Laravel
Surely there are more appropriate stacks for specific problem domains? Like how using R outside of data analysis is probably weird, or writing your microcontroller code in nodejs is probably a bad idea.
The law of the hammer exists, and if your tasks requires a screwdriver and all you have is a hammer it will be more challenging than need be.
Have you used PHP in the last 5 years?
Sure TS with something like Express has its disadvantages but I'm ok with it. It's the tool I use for a specific job and there's a lot more useful things to learn than another language & framework just for its sake.
Both are old languages and both had years of low quality devs cranking out terrible stuff.
> there's a lot more useful things to learn than another language & framework just for its sake.
Not a PHP advocate.
Both are useful and both have very very effective footguns built in (unlike Java, my personal favorite, who's footguns are less effectivebut who's more famous for its built in ball and chain).
Wikipedia tells me they're both from 1995.
Specifically node developers cost more and are far fewer in numbers.
Make sure it's a private GitHub repo, or you ask first. Many companies prefer their coding tests to not be published online. It happens, it's unavoidable, but companies can often get by with the same test for a while if people don't post them on GitHub too much.
If they define themselves as a technology company, which I believe they do, and they want lots of complex features for their services, and set an exorbitant valuation on that basis, then they better have the right infrastructure for that.
Being good at email (ex: not relying on GMail, knowing basic things about line length, top-posting, signature, having your own domain(s), using an actual email client instead of webmail crap, Sieve filters and mailing list management, actually knowing how mailing-list based development works and being able to use (git) patch/diff, bonus points for offline syncing, 2x bonus for using a text client (3x bonus for xmh), 10x bonus for running your own server(s)) is a way better indicator of technical competency than the ability to sign up for a GitHub account and click a few buttons.
HTML email is a huge red flag for programmers.
My first intuitions would be that they’re likely reluctant to make practical compromises, slow to accept norms, and that they’re prone to chasing rabbits. They might have a role on a large team or for a very specific project, but there’s be some wariness for sure.
That’s a big achievement in my book. How many people can really say they’ve been able to do something like that?
[Edit] I should probably add a caveat that Masayoshi Son isn’t the dumb one here. No, he’s actually quite the genius, managing to convince Saudia Arabia to basically give him $45 billion and then spinning that all the way into $100 billion with the Vision Fund. I’m genuinely giving praise to the man here. He saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.
Masa Son in 2019: hold my beer, watch dis.
- someone trusted you with billions
- you weren't too paralyzed by fear of risk to do anything useful
- you might even have learned from the experience
Also see The "Parable of the Talents", in Matthew 25:14–30.
Now that said, it is expected that most investments in any VC portfolio will fail! Something like a 70% failure rate, with 20% being moderately successful, and 10% being very successful is considered very good for the VC industry. But at the end of the day it's ROI - you make money or you lose money. I think SoftBank is going to lose more money than all the other VC firms simply because they started with more money to lose.
While that's true overall, I don't think those expectations are the same for the kind of very-late-stage, pour rocket fuel on the fire investments that the Vision Fund is making.
For seed-stage investing, definitely.
The problem for late-stage investors is that it's really hard to get the same "grand slam" economics on your winners that early-stage investors can, so it's harder to make up for a bunch of washouts.
1) Uber strategically is looking pretty good. They are the market leader in most countries and their Uber Eats business is turning out to be quite lucrative.
2) Self driving cars is a long term project so of course Cruise isn't going to have anything released just yet.
3) Boston Dynamics just launched their latest robot and has already seen pretty good adoption amongst enterprise customers. There is a huge need just in the resources industry for technologies to assist with compliance. Let along going more mass-market like construction sites.
4) Light have pivoted to being an autonomous car sensor company. And as we know there is significant potential demand in this space.
5) Nuro actually has more potential than most of the self driving car companies around by aggressively focusing on a single use case i.e. consumer goods delivery.
Uber is hemorrhaging money and are still competing against Lyft. What is their path towards profitability other than raising prices and losing customers? How do they become anything other than a glorified taxi company? Even if you disagree with me, you can't deny that the stock is trending downwards right now and is expected to continue to fall until after the lockup period for employees is up - that's when I think we'll see a glimpse of what Uber is really worth.
Boston Dynamics has been passed around constantly because nobody wants to keep them once they realize they can't make money. Spot is a cool robot, but they don't release a price. How many people want to spend the better part of $100k (or a leasing option) on something with incredibly limited utility? The market is tiny since the military keeps rejecting their machines.
If you believe in self-driving being the future, fine. Then that's a logical bet. I adamantly believe self-driving is like nuclear fusion - it's decades and tens of billions of dollars away from being commercially viable, if ever.
> Being pretty negative on those companies.
That's because I know how easy it is to make demoware and how hard it is to make a real product.
Just curious, what's wrong with that? A global taxi dispatching service that's always available, always (debatably) efficiently routing drivers to passengers sounds like a game-winning plan. Regular taxi dispatching services weren't doing these things well, on top of just sucking since they had no real competition for so long.
It just means Uber is a failed investment for SoftBank.
Which investments are doing well? Maybe Paytm?
It's about being able to build autonomous restaurants. Combine that with autonomous deliveries and you have the potential for food to be delivered to people without any people involved.
Given we have an ageing population which may involve lots of people unable to leave the house this could be a trillion dollar market.
achieving capital intensive goals either involves having strong cash flow to reinvest into your R&D (which is what Amazon did) or having continued cash infusements (which is the Softbank strategy). WeWork is a great example of what happens when the money runs out.
the Softbank-specific angle here is that they promised 7% yearly payouts to the Saudis. the yearly dividend means that they need to extract liquid cash value out of their investments each year. surely you would agree that Zume and other similar investments are long-term speculations, and in the short term are not likely to pay much of a dividend or return through IPO either. however, Softbank is incentivized to push their investments to return value in the short term. so I'm personally very skeptical that their short-term commitments can allow them to be good stewards of companies with very long-term ambitions.
Somewhere core to the problem is that providing good direction is hard. Hiring good people is hard. Making sure good people are working together in the right direction is hard. "Hyper-growth" basically trivializes all those things so that you're hiring as fast as you can, which keeps you from meaningfully on-boarding people, and leaves a bunch of people without good direction.
The knock-on effects of that dynamic can be disastrous. Low morale due to shapes of listlessness. Late stage integration issues due to folks working for long periods in sporadic threads that need to be woven together. Political infighting as too many people with not really enough meaningful work to do start getting creative for their own ends at the expense of others or the organization.
I have been around and in a lot of "hyper-growth" startups, and not one of them that I interacted with operated remotely close to a well-oiled functioning organization.
Is this how it is, boots on the ground wise though? I've worked for VC funded startups and we never treated budgets as something to be scoffed at and were very cost conscious.
There hasn't been a revolutionary technology in dog walking, just people who need cash but dont know pets.
There hasnt been a revolutionary technology in grocery shopping, just people who need cash and dont care about the quality of your basket.
Honestly, I don't think massive platforms are the way to go for such intimate things like dog walking and grocery shopping. I don't have a dog right now but I've had pets in the past. They are your family. Trusting them to a random person on a massive platform seems almost impossibly irresponsible. The same goes with letting a complete stranger shop for your food.
Funny enough I walk around my neighborhood without a dog for a bit of exercise, and have been doing this for years. A number of people who I've talked to over the years have asked me if I would walk their dog for them. I said no simply because I really enjoy not having a schedule for when I walk and I didn't want to be tied into a commitment. But my point is, I think things like dog walking and grocery shopping needs to be a small scale operation where you have a real human connection and trust level with the person doing the work. They have to be a legit friend.
Not to mention that at scale, dogs are going to die/get lost no matter what you do, so there's a ton of risk in having a single brand that owners don't have a strong personal relationship with. I think whitelabeling the tech and then reaching customers via local brands makes a lot more sense.
I don't think food is nearly as bad. The worst you can do without malice is buy shitty food.
In case of Uber, because of improvements in cars safety, reliability and easy of use, and navigation apps, it made it possible to reach that critical mass/density of supply to have a compound effect.
Apps like Wag will never have this, because dog walking is too personal. It's like cleaning, baby sitting, hair dressing. If you find someone that you like, you tend to stick with them. So if supply in your area growth 100x times, you still gonna use the same provider, because simple 5 start reputation system maybe fine for short stays or rides, but not adequate to match your personal preferences. Grocery shopping, on the other hand, can be commoditized. If you have a list of brands/suppliers you like, you don't care at what grocery store it was bought at and who delivers them to your doorstep.
Who also use google maps to do their route planning...
any proof? I will say it falls down w/ construction zones and road changes.
I just did a drive from Tampa, FL to Albany, NY. Waze and Google calculated the drive time within 10 minutes.
My commute is about 12 minutes. Both Google and Waze will dump you on routes that will double or triple that.
This entire business is basically a gigantic spreadsheet where you move things around to optimize profitability. Believing that this is a "tech" startup is where you start to fail.
I see so many businesses fail to make this distinction.
Stripe is a tech company, as is Boston Dynamics. But Wag is a tech leveraged business.
I’m not sure what the advantage of having the same service exist in a bunch of cities is.
And you have the usual problem that most people prefer to use individuals they are comfortable with and have maybe been recommended by friends. Especially for something like dog walking.
Maybe there’s a market for selling dog walking business kits with software. But that’s not $300m.
But things like babysitting or dogwalking don't offer any advantages if they are globally available. You're going to need a dog walker in the same city, the same house, the same neighborhood. Most people would rather just find one walker they like and stick with them
But there’s some advantage to being global or at least national in a way that isn’t relevant for services you use almost entirely at home.
I know they wanted to position themselves as the one stop shop for dog everything (not just walks but sitting/boarding, training, food delivery, etc) which is what I think helped them raise the funds, but I think they've taken too long to resolve the issues around their bread and butter of dog walking. The fact that the Viners and Meltzer are all since left as well is pretty telling.
WeWork's valuations have also seemed strange to me, when they don't have any assets of infrastructure to warrant such a high value. There's very little stopping others renting office space, in fact a friend of mine has done just that.
How much are you investing on your suredness that there's a bubble? Because if you did it in 2012, you'd be down about 70% right now.
And yes you’d have mostly been wrong about the Facebooks of the world.
The current generation of money-losing startups is a lot more problematic. And some of the questionable IPOs have already fared pretty badly.
I’d also argue though that I’m not sure most of these companies matter much in the scheme of the larger economy. And probably not even the tech sector relative to the big employers.
There is a company in my country doing this. They are probably not worth zero tbf but they have a massive issue with people just cutting them out after the first transaction.
And what is the problem with just building a brand? I employ a bunch of dog walkers, I do checks on them, I build a trusted brand...the $300m is a solution without a problem.
Back in the day I used to drive a shuttle and once in awhile I'd get pressured into taking a passenger that wasn't related to the business I was employed by. It's pretty harmless but still a big no-no since you're technically breaking some laws since there are certain loops you have to jump through to take on fares like that (got screamed at by towncar drivers when I arrived at the airport. I'm sure they were thrilled when Uber became a thing). Anyways the passengers paid 40 bucks for a 20 minute drive. That was the going rate they were used to paying back in 2008. There's a LOT of incentive to cut out the middle man.
Uhh, what? No, it didn't. Even the bull case never imagined it as anything like a "next big thing."
"App for Y that know allows you to work like before but without labour rights"
and invest money into stuff that actually deserves to be called an invention. Idk cure cancer, flying cars, making infrastructure cheaper, something that actually gets productivity up in the long term
The startup I work for is in property insurance, and while the software we've written is cool, the business hasn't gone belly-up yet since we have good insurance analysts, actuaries, lawyers, salespeople, etcetera.
Firefox has an option to turn it off. I think it's the only browser with that.
If CEO and top executives really cared about a startup for dogs, they would have come up with solutions for the most recurring problems (e.g. dogs getting lost, or mistreated). How hard is to make a leash with GPS in it and track it in an app? Or to give mandatory basic training to any new contractor?
Also the way they treated the customer service employees is disgusting.
Does closing a $250K contract matter? In a scrappy startup, that contract is a huge win. In an overfunded startup, its often considered a distraction.
I wouldn't try to analyse it. A smart Japanese guy took them for a ride, he took a cut, and then handed it to some software developers in Silicon Valley who saved some and then spent the rest. That is it. No value created. No investments. Just redistribution away from stupid people.
Btw, this happened in the 1970s too. When the oil price spiked, the Saudis didn't know what to do with their cash so they just deposited it in US banks. The US banks didn't know what to do either so they started lending to South America. They knew what to do: politicians either stole it or handed it out as bribes to their supporters. The result was Citibank and a few other banks going insolvent in the early 80s, and a massive debt crisis in LatAm from 1980-1993(ish).
...the Saudis also gave a bit to Britain, who had their own debt crisis (also because of cash handouts to political supporters) and devalued a good chunk of their money away.
They will lose money always.
The only market with infinite liquidity is US Treasuries (that is where the Chinese put their $3trn of foreign currency reserves). Mortgage-backed were liquid until GFC, and liquidity in corporates is falling because dealers can't carry inventory (afaik, not expert...MBS pre-GFC was ultra liquid for sure though and seen as an alternative to USTs).
The Saudis own $150bn here (and growing because of Trump/MBS relationship apparently) but I think the issue the Saudis have is that they have a fucking huge budget deficit. There are tons of people on do-nothing, civil servant jobs (mainly royal family members), they have to spend a ton on defence (ostensibly against external threat but the royal family is terrified of an uprising too), and they spend a ton on welfare to buy popularity.
They are definitely investing for a return.
I’m sorry, all due respect, but.... a dog walking company.
When I do that, the first thing that comes to me is that the dog-owner market is huge—so huge that $300M is likely a small number rather than a large one. Moreover, the emotions that people have about their dogs are intense, profound, and deeply personal. ("Dogs are the new kids", reads a coffee mug I once saw in a kitchen in San Francisco.) So this market is not only broad, it's deep; the potential customers are not only numerous but the chance for repeat business is high. Probably there's a huge opportunity here, if you can satisfy people's needs or at least give them a feeling of that. As for dog-walking sounding trivial, if you've ever been (or known) a stressed-out, overworked dog owner and how it feels to face your sad unwalked dog in the evening when you have no energy left to do anything, this is actually not trivial at all. It is not only a form of suffering, it's closely connected with deeper forms of suffering—because so many of us invest our unfulfilled relational capacity into our pets. People will spend a lot of money to relieve a problem like that. In short: huge market, repeat business, premium pricing.
I know nothing about Wag, but this is more than enough to see how the GP comment broke the HN guidelines by being a shallow dismissal. I totally get why people want to post that kind of rant and share that perspective—I share it too, it's fun and creates a sense of community in its own way. But we have to remember what we're optimizing for on HN. There are tradeoffs in the kinds of discussion we get to have. If we take the shallow route and go for the sugar rush of piling on stupidity at a distance, we forego the quieter, insightful kind of discussion. Compounded, this determines the kind of site Hacker News is going to be.
Edit: I read the article, which seems to me unusually good and to deserve a more thoughtful discussion than most comments have offered here so far. Among other things, it makes clear that the issue is not "a fucking dog walking company" being a bad business per se, because a competitor is actually doing better.
Opportunity can often be so right under your nose that you scoff at people ridiculous enough to go and try to address that need.
I meant my comment more tongue-in-cheek as a bit of catharsis, for how hard we can tend to strive at an obscure problem while not addressing the low hanging fruit.
Thank you for fantastic work.
It's an application of the startup playbook on something essentially meaningless.
Wag is an idea that could be well executed in about 2 million - a trendy app, some "social networking" for dogs and their owners, a form of payment and you're done. Moving on in life, left the building with everything working forever kind of done
But this isn't about that, this is startup theater of the absurd and incompetent.
Add on to that the myth that competent execution can be done by bozos if you simply give them more money (people don't magically become smarter with more money) and you get this - ships of well paid fools going through the startup motions.
A dog walking company...
Even so, while I understand your perception and like most people I intuitively feel like it must be true in many cases, I'm missing any sense of what specifically makes it true in this case, other than that "dog-walking" sounds trivial. A line of the form "Wag is an idea that could be well executed in about 2 million" feels to me like it's in the orbit of "I could implement that in a weekend"—the sort of thing people say when they're not personally close to the problem, because everything seems smaller at a distance.
Similarly with what you say about "bozos" and "well-paid fools"—ok, such humans exist, maybe including some of the humans who see others as bozos and fools—but do you know something specific about the individuals here? If you think you do, do you really know it, or might this be hearsay based on very little information? Usually what comments like this do is repeat generic reactions about a common topic, which is actually the opposite of a substantive HN comment.
I've run across people at wag and other x as a service companies, it's all the same, just some niche carving of fiverr or taskrabbit with a lot of hype and very little substance.
Some like deliveroo out of the UK are genuinely competent but most are just doing theater
Man, what a trend this has grown to be.
They claim that they'll charge walkers $1000 if they provide services to a Wag client outside of the service, but I'd be surprised if that's legally enforceable:
Till I realized how much money they have raised... And I...
I don't care about the last 10% potential. This market is fucked
A common approach is to use an api to deliver data to your mobile app. If you've built it in php that can be reused.
Take this built-in php function: array_column
array_column() returns the values from a single column of the input, identified by the column_key
PHP allows you to do a lot with very little code which allows you to focus on a difficult problem rather than a difficult problem and how to shape it with whatever language.
PHP is really great for getting MVPs out the door in my experience, but a productive engineer in any language would likely have the same experience in the language of their choosing. I am by no means a PHP developer though.
Having said that, PHP and JS aren’t the only ones. You will also find Java, Python, Ruby, C# for examples.
Any language will solve anything you can do in any other language.
> JS is also more in demand
Depends on industry, location and even teams at the company as well as the standards and requirements which could vary by project.
Having said all that, if you‘re learning JS, yes, you can find jobs that use it.
PHP matters and if anything it would be good for you to learn both. It will give you a better insight on different ways to build software and use the appropriate solution.
PHP is a mature ecosystem with reliable tools/frameworks. It is relatively easy to learn and you can become productive quickly.
One benefit I find of PHP that is less mentioned:
When your team is short on people (and that happens quite often), you can pretty much throw anyone (provided they are generally competent) at a PHP codebase and they will do well. Wouldn't say the same for a back-end JS project, I've seen what a Java developer can do to a JS codebase.
PHP bites far less often than JS in my opinion.
* quick web scraping script (just with curl or file_get_contents) not the insane https-request-libs
* parsing some CSV files and generate SQL statements
* one-page website for monitoring/dashboard
* logging scripts (speed test hourly - working on article)
Even built a CLI xml feed processing system with it. Php7 is really fast and memory efficient. Not saying there aren't better or faster languages.
Guess its just a tool a reach for often, since I know it well and you can get far with a basic install without loading 1000 of npm/js packages. I only seldom need to use composer for my my* purposes.
Why, exactly? PHP, node, Ruby, Java, .NET, and Python are all capable tools with mature webapp frameworks. In terms of capabilities, the differences between them only matter for a small and rare set of projects.
They could have decided on one of these platforms by rolling a die and it would have little direct impact on their success or potential.
Presumably, the actual criteria was likely familiarity and fluency for their tech founder or early developers. This familiarity and fluency matters 1000x more to success than the differences between these frameworks.
Given that all the tools are mature and capable, having a team work with tools they know is a lot more valuable than handing them tools that they'll be learning how to use as they go.
> Presumably, the actual criteria was likely familiarity and fluency for their tech founder or early developers.
That would be a completely valid answer to the question. The fact that they didn't answer the question at all is the problem here, not that they chose PHP.
In this metaphor the colour of the wall is equivalent to the product. The code is equivalent to whether the painters used brushes, pads or rollers or whether they used ladders or scaffolding - the customers do not care.
By asking why choose php you are asking why use rollers to paint.
If that's the case, asking about the choice of implementation language sounds like asking about the spec.
The end user does not care about the programming language.
Then... why is it so hard for people to just answer like that? It's a perfectly acceptable reason, but often (like the GP in this subthread) I find people won't actually answer like that. They'll try to come up with weird justifications re: technical merit vs competing tech, and I've found their specific examples might be demonstrably wrong or are just fancier ways of saying "this was a personal preference".
What's been lost in all this discussion... the state of the code. I'd much prefer a stack in XYZ with some tests, sample data, repeatable steps, etc. vs a stack in ABC without any of the above.
Did you think to ask why they were using windows instead of macs? Or why leather seats?
Even if they weren't the person that made the choice, them knowing the reasoning behind the choice tells you a lot about the team. I usually expect new members of teams to ask questions about why the application was written the way it was. This shows a general curiosity among team members and it shows that the team can transfer knowledge to each other.
Knowing why they made decisions I might not agree with helps me decide how the team makes decisions in general. Is there one manager that decides things without input? Does the whole team give input and decide democratically? Are they saddled with technical debt from the co-founders last failed startup that's 10 years older?
Most places would say because it's faster or why would you use anything else? Not give you any company history.
Ask who makes technical decisions. Or what debt structure they have. Not why they choose aws over azure.
And you clearly misunderstood what they meant by technical debt.
This place uses php. It's in the job description (either that or the parent had no knowledge of what the company did before the interview) so the discovery should have happened earlier in the process.
By asking that question in that way the parent poster is signaling that he is modern but at the same time saying the company isn't modern by phrasing it that way. Wanting to understand how a company makes decisions is valid. Making judgement statements through questions is not valid.
And yes misunderstood company for technical debt reference.
Am I being irrational?
I just want somebody to make a decision, and if it is wrong, we learn, and try something else.